Cover Image: Paper Names

Paper Names

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Member Reviews

When I saw this book described as an intergenerational story of a Chinese-American family, I was hoping for something with the caliber of Amy Tan or Lisa See's work. I was very disappointed. All of these characters fell really flat. Oliver gave me the creeps. I am reading other reviews and wondering if I read the same book as everyone else. The author's writing style was fine, but I wanted more.
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Thanks to Hanover Square Press for the copy of this book!

Add Paper Names to your list of must-read books of 2023. I sat down thinking I’d sample a chapter of a few books to see what I’d read next, and ended up reading half of this book instead!

Paper Names is a compelling story of a Chinese-American family (Tony/Tongheng & Kim/Kuan-yin and their daughter, Tammy/Tianfei) and their experiences as immigrants in New York City - one experience which intertwines their family’s lives with that of a privileged white lawyer, Oliver.

Told from the perspectives of Tony, Tammy, and Oliver over decades, we really get a 360-degree look at all the events that unfurl and really get to dig into privilege, family, loyalty, ceilings, and justice. I was so engrossed in this story from the start, but then toward the end -  OH MY GOSH - I was getting physically anxious at the events that started unfurling. Throwing in a POV of a white male with a trust fund was genius on Susie Lou’s part. Susie also went through an event from one character’s perspective, then in the next chapter, went over that event from a different character’s POV with a slightly shifted the timeline. It worked so well and is really masterful storytelling - I can’t believe this is a debut! 

Read if you:
- read and loved Beautiful Country
- learned how to play It’s All Coming Back to Me Now on the piano in the 90s
- appreciate multiple POVs
- want to learn more about the Chinese-American experience
- want to support a BIPOC debut
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Paper Names.

Paper Names revolves around a Chinese American immigrant family struggling for their piece of the American Dream.

This is a familiar tale if you're an immigrant or a child of immigrants, and technically, we all are.

There were parts of the story I could really relate to as a first generation Asian American, how my parents came to the US for a better life and opportunities for their children,

My biggest issue was what was the main theme of the book?

Identity? Family? Love?

Tony, Kim, and Tammy are familiar archetypes of an Chinese American family; not affectionate, laser focused on grades and improving your social station in life, 

First, for me, this wasn't a story between a father and a daughter; Tony has serious anger issues, nor did I ever see true devotion and love between him and Tammy minus a few kind words, and only because they're in the midst of a medical emergency.

Second, the non linear time jumps was confusing, and often times, unnecessary.

I didn't care about Tony or Kim; how they met and when he decided to leave for the US.

They were both unlikable and yet very familiar characters I could relate to. 

Maybe that's why I didn't like them. They reminded me of people I know, and in that, the author got their personalities and behaviors right.

I understood Tammy's desire to be as American as she could; dress American, talk American and act American, just at the same time be confused about paying respect to her culture and the sacrifices her parents made for the opportunities she now has.

Third, is this a story about Oliver as a white savior? 

Yeah, I can see that, even though he's another stereotype; handsome, brash, with a high powered job hiding a family scandal he's too ashamed to admit but not ashamed enough to deny the perks that come with it.

At the end, he realizes he's no better than the loser family he's been kind of, not really trying to get away from most of his life.

Or, maybe this is a story about how no family is perfect; that we're all trying to adapt and assimilate, to do the best we can in a society that mocks and judges us for our family name, our accent, our reputation, how we dress and how much we make.

The writing was fine, but I had hoped for more depth and interesting characters. I wanted to like this more but I do look forward to see what the author writes next.
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this book is leaving me with lots of mixed feelings.

the characters felt like they had tons of promise to be complex, but ultimately felt like they were stereotypes of complex characters. they all fit their molds to a T — the nepo baby/rich white man who believes he is more morally upright than his corrupt family (spoiler: he’s not), the Asian immigrant father who struggles with how american society emasculates & infantilizes him, the Asian american daughter who is so consumed by internalized racism & pressure to fulfill her parents’ american dreams… almost all of their actions, motivations, & characteristics were just so aligned with how these characters are portrayed in every other story that i was disappointed with the lack of depth — even though i saw how the author was trying to complicate them.

they were also super unlikable at times?? they would randomly lash out & just be so so cruel/hurtful in ways that were realistic for their circumstances but were still irredeemable & frustrating to read. they definitely were still very realistic & understandable characters though & i found myself deeply feeling for them.

the plot was good, but def not great. i was intrigued at what was going to happen but i wasn’t *invested* by any means. i was grossed out at the ways some things developed — they felt very.. “women written by a man” even though the author is a woman? idk if i can describe it but so many plot points just felt off-putting to me.

howeverrrr the redeeming quality of this book for me was tongheng (tony)‘s story & inner monologue. like i said, he definitely fits the mold of the Asian immigrant father (all pros & cons included) but i found his thoughts to be the most emotionally compelling. his love for his daughter, his frustration with his circumstances, & his inability to express either of those things were so tragic & i really could see so much real, raw emotion in him.

overall, many mixed feelings on this one!! i’m not sure i’d recommend it over lots of other similar Asian immigrant/children of immigrant stories, but i would definitely be interested in seeing what else susie luo has up her sleeve.
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I really enjoyed this story about a Chinese-American family and the path their lives take after a ‘violent incident.’ Not really about the violent incident at all. Just good character drama.
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I really enjoyed this family saga. Tammy and Tony in particular were well developed characters and I loved reading about how Chinese culture/American culture shaped each of them. The timelines were jumpy and a little hard to follow, and certain parts of Oliver's story line were jumped over too quickly. But overall, this is a great story about the Zhang family, their move to America and generational trauma.
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A captivating story about two families thrown together after a random act of violence. We learn about Tammy and her immigrant parents’s relationship and Oliver and his family with hidden secrets.
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What an intense ride! This is the alternating story of Tony, his daughter Tammy, and the friendship with Oliver who lives in the building where Tony was a doorman. 
A lot happens over the years. We also get a look back in Tony's life which helps connect some of his feelings and family ties. 
There is a lot that happens to all of them and they all overlap and it leads to a conclusion I didn't see coming! 

A good read about family and the ties that bind us and shape us. 

Thanks NetGalley for this ARC!
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Writing: 4.5 / 5  Characters: 5/5 Plot: 4/5

I quite enjoyed this story which weaves together three characters: Tony, a first generation Chinese immigrant who gives up a prestigious engineering career in China for the promise of more opportunity in America for his descendants; Tammy, the daughter who “gets” to live his dream for him — Harvard educated with a promising legal career in a wealthy firm; and Oliver, a wealthy (white) lawyer with a very secret past, whose path brings him close to both of them.

I don’t agree with the book blurb: “An unexpected act of violence brings together a Chinese-American family and a wealthy white lawyer in this propulsive and sweeping story of family, identity and the American experience.” IMHO the “act of violence” — which happens fairly near the end — did serve as a forcing function for some essential reflection and self-reckoning, but it didn’t bring them together and detracts from the real meat of the story which indeed was about “family,  identity and the American experience.” 

I quite liked the characters and found them both realistic and individualized (no stereotypes!). I enjoyed the contrast between the first generation immigrant father and the second generation immigrant daughter.  I found the expression of how each felt — about his or her  history, opportunities, and values as well as the complex web of feelings and attitudes about each other — to be artful, genuine, and identifiable.

The chapters alternate between perspectives of the three and jump around in time.  I didn’t find it difficult to keep track of the time (very appreciative of the chapter labels!)
There are a lot of Asian immigrant stories out there — I found this one to be more reflective, less stereotyped, and less over-dramatic than most. Definitely recommend.
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Moving story about family, immigration, and the American dream. Compelling, difficult to put down, with a great cast of well rounded characters and points of view.
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Will give feedback and my review when the HCP union gets a fair contract. Thank you so much for the book and can't wait to leave a review in the future.
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Paper Names tells the story of the Zhang family, who emigrate from China to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Tony and Kim leave good careers in Dalian to move to New York City, in order to give their daughter, Tammy, more. More opportunities, more room to advance, a chance to become more than her parents can. But does succeeding mean losing her in the process? How much is too much to give? 

It's also a story of chance, coincidence and choosing whether to rise above family legacy. Or to embrace fully who you are and where you come from.

I was happy to receive an advance copy of Ms. Luo's novel. I rate it 3.5 stars.
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Paper Names is the gripping story of a family that leaves China to pursue the American dream in New York but finds that there are many obstacles to happiness and success along the way. 

Tony was a brilliant engineer in China but is now a doorman who suddenly gains respect (and fifteen minutes of fame) when he heroically takes down the thug who mugged one of the wealthy older residents from his building. Another tenant witnesses the scuffle and forms an unlikely friendship with Tony. Oliver offers to teach Tony's nine year old daughter Tammy how to play the piano and becomes her mentor, even when she goes to Harvard and eventually becomes a lawyer. When an unforeseen tragedy rocks their world, their bond is put to the ultimate test and they are forced to make decisions that will forever affect the course of their lives.

Poignant, thought-provoking and beautifully written, Paper Names is an unforgettable story about family, loyalty and strength.
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An engaging and quick read about a Chinese couple and their young daughter who move to the U.S. to make a better life for themselves. The father's primary focus is buying them a house in a respectable neighborhood and ensuring their daughter, Tammy, pursues college and a high-level career. Through hard work, perseverance, and living by the rules of a different society, the family accomplishes that and more. After a tragic accident, the book ends with Tammy and her mother traveling to the hometown the family left years ago. 

A heartwarming story about Chinese immigrants and their lives in the U.S. Despite being fiction, the author depicted many truths about how immigrants continue to be perceived and treated in the U.S.  Susie Luo is a gifted storyteller and I hope to read more of her books in the future.
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